A review of more than 700 previous studies concluded that echinacea does have a substantial effect in preventing colds and limiting their duration.

The analysis found that echinacea reduced the risk of catching a cold by 58 percent, and that the duration of a cold was significantly reduced.

The issue of whether echinacea is effective in the treatment of colds or not, has wavered back and forth, with some studies showing great effectiveness and others drawing the opposite conclusion. This review took a different approach to the issue and used statistical techniques to combine the results of existing studies, including only randomized and placebo-controlled trials.

But other experts are still skeptical about the technique used to reach their conclusions, holding fast to their own, less optimistic, findings.

Dr. Coleman, senior author of the paper, points out that there are several reasons why even a carefully devised study might fail to show an effect that actually does exist. Since there are more than 200 species of cold viruses, a study might be using a species against which echinacea happens to be ineffective. But that doesn't mean it won't work for other strains. Additionally, some studies may not use large enough doses of the herb, and others may be using less potent types of echinacea.

New York Times July 24, 2007

The Lancet Infectious Diseases; 7(7):473-80 July, 2007

Dr Mercola's comments:

Though this study did find favorable results for echinacea on colds, it's important to remember that just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's always safe.

Herbs are generally far safer and less expensive than drugs, but they should still be used with some restraint.

In the case of echinacea, for example, mild or serious allergic reactions are possible, as are other side effects ranging from dizziness and diarrhea to bruise-like sores under your skin (called Erythema nodosum). While echinacea is preferable to over-the-counter cold remedies (which do absolutely nothing to treat the cause of your cold), it is not your best option to fighting off a cold.

What is then?

Boosting your own immune system, which is your toughest line of defense against cold viruses and other illnesses. The likelihood of you becoming a victim of the cold virus increases if you are overtired, stressed out, or eating an unhealthy diet, as all of these things can weaken your immune system.

To build your immune system to the point where it can easily fight off cold and flu viruses:

* Cut out grains and sugar from your diet (they weaken your immune system)
* Get plenty of sleep
* Exercise
* Keep your stress levels in check

These are all effective strategies -- especially when practiced in combination.

Now cutting out grains might seem extreme, and it certainly isn't for everyone. However, if you are a protein nutritional type, or struggle with excess weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, there is a strong chance that you will benefit by significantly reducing or eliminating grains. I know that seems like a radical statement, but that has been my experience. I also know that if you are hooked on grains, this can be a very difficult choice. It was for me, but once I did it, it became very easy.

Of course this, like any recommendation, needs to be individualized. For example, if you are doing massive cardio workouts then you will certainly need extra carbs to balance your energy expenditures. But generally speaking, limiting grains, even whole grains, is one of the best food choices you can make.

It is also important to be aware that cold viruses spread most easily via hand-to-hand contact. This is why washing your hands frequently when you have a cold is so important, in order to reduce the risk of spreading it around.

For a much more in-depth look at how you can treat your cold naturally, don't miss the Related Links below, including Treat Your Colds Naturally and Avoid Unnecessary Over-the-Counter Drugs.

Related Articles:

Treat Your Colds Naturally and Avoid Unnecessary Over-The-Counter Drugs

Secrets About Colds and How to Treat and Avoid Them

Routine Exercise Snuffs Out Common Colds

The 7 Children's Cold Myths